Radiant Author: Karina Sumner-Smith Series: Towers Trilogy 1 Publisher: Talos, September 30, 2014 Format: Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages List Price: $15.99 (print) ISBN: 9781940456102 (print) Review Copy: Reviewer's Own
Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.
When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.
With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.
Radiant: Towers Trilogy Book One, a debut novel by Karina Sumner-Smith, lives up to its name. When I reached the last page of the story I kept trying to turn the page as if that would make it lead directly into the next book in the trilogy that hasn’t been released yet. Sadly, this didn’t work.
Radiant is a story that explores class differences and issues of privilege as Xhea struggles to survive in the ruins of an unnamed future metropolis. A City floats above the ruins powered by the magic generated by its citizens. Those born without the magical clout to rise above are left to scrabble for the leavings of the past in collapsed buildings as they avoid walkers at night. Xhea is born without the simplest magic, which she has turned into a career as someone who can explore ruins beneath the surface of the earth that pains regular magic users too much to contemplate. She has another unique attribute in that she can see ghosts. One of her clients would like a break from the ghost that is trailing him and we meet Shai, a powerful ghost, who befriends Xhea and together they must decide whether their own survival is more important than that of the City above them.
This is a story that I had no trouble getting deep into and feeling as if the terror, hunger, and pride were struggles I was feeling. Having grown up in a family that faced its share of financial troubles and facing long periods of physical harassment for being different I could identify with Xhea’s need to be the independent loner who hungers deeply for some kind of connection to normalcy. Great pacing in this novel makes it an easy read with enough difference in voice and subject matter to differentiate it from other dystopian future novels out there. I do hope the author spends a little more time developing the issues of privilege that are endemic to this struggle and Shai’s perspective on the trials the two are facing together in the next book.
Look for Brandon's review of Defiant (Towers Trilogy 2) on May 6th.
Towers Trilogy 2
Talos, May 12, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Once, Xhea’s wants were simple: enough to eat, safety in the underground, and the hit of bright payment to transform her gray-cast world into color. But in the aftermath of her rescue of the Radiant ghost Shai, she realizes the life she had known is gone forever.
In the two months since her fall from the City, Xhea has hidden in skyscraper Edren, sheltered and attempting to heal. But soon even she must face the troubling truth that she might never walk again. Shai, ever faithful, has stayed by her side?but the ghost’s very presence has sent untold fortunes into Edren’s coffers and dangerously unbalanced the Lower City’s political balance.
War is brewing. Beyond Edren’s walls, the other skyscrapers have heard tell of the Radiant ghost and the power she holds; rumors, too, speak of the girl who sees ghosts who might be the key to controlling that power. Soon, assassins stalk the skyscrapers’ darkened corridors while armies gather in the streets. But Shai’s magic is not the only prize?nor the only power that could change everything. At last, Xhea begins to learn of her strange dark magic, and why even whispers of its presence are enough to make the Lower City elite tremble in fear.
Together, Xhea and Shai may have the power to stop a war?or become a weapon great enough to bring the City to its knees. That is, if the magic doesn't destroy them first.